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Top 5 Marketing Trends for 2011 What to watch out for and get ahead of in the coming year.

Top 5 Marketing Trends for 2011
What to watch out for — and get ahead of — in the coming year.

As a business leader, you don’t have a crystal ball that shows you how to steer your business ahead in 2011. But these top 5 Marketing Trends for the year ahead are surely the next best thing. Read on and get in position to exploit opportunities – and avoid pitfalls…

In a way, the success or failure of a business is a story of marketing trends – a tale of whether a business has the foresight to identify and exploit marketing trends, or whether it misses the boat and wastes time, money and other resources playing catch-up.

Now, as we stand on the cusp of another year, let’s look forward at the top 5 marketing trends that will dominate your 2011 business story – a story that will either be full of wonderful phrases like “exceeded profit projections” and “entered new valuable markets,” or weighed down with laments of “missed expectations” and “wasted opportunities.”

2011 Marketing Trend #1: Integrated Marketing will Rule them All

For years, businesses have been able to execute marketing projects (whether they called them that or not) in a non-integrated manner. That is, they were able to focus on each one independent of the other – often not even caring, let alone knowing, how they all related to each other, whether all possible channels were being utilized, and how they influenced and informed overall strategic business objectives. That time is gone, gone, gone (and that’s good, good, good!).

Now, businesses must ensure that they utilize all available channels – both online and offline – and identify which ones offer the most value (including an emerging breed of FREE distribution channels). Businesses must also integrate multiple channels for the same messaging, such as using a press release to reinforce a blog post, which is supporting a newspaper ad, which is tied into internal staff communications…and so on. It all has to tie together and align with an integrated messaging strategy.

And that’s just part one of the move towards Integrated Marketing. Part two is about coordinating.

From here on in, businesses must coordinate all of their marketing channels and strategies into a cohesive, focused and cost-effective vision; one that goes far outside the convenient little marketing “box” in an organization chart, and embraces everything from risk management to staff training to service delivery, and everything in between. Why? Because that’s what marketing is in 2011 and beyond: it’s integrated. It’s not off on an island somewhere, doing its own thing, occasionally saying hi to the other business functions at monthly meetings or on the golf course. Integrated Marketing is the fuel that runs a business and keeps it on target and smartly moving forward.

In this sense, it may be helpful to view Integrated Marketing less as a business function, and more of a language of doing business. In 2011, your business must be fluent in this language – because your best competitors and most valuable customers are.

2011 Marketing Trend #2: Social Media will Reposition in the Marketing Mix

There are some learned business folks who still think that social media is a fad and will give way to “sound business fundamentals.” These people are wrong. Social media isn’t a fad precisely because it is based on sound business fundamentals, regardless of whether the 17-year old wiz-kid who designs the next social media tool realizes this or not. Yes, tools and platforms will come and go, but if you’re among the folks holding your breath waiting for social media to fade away, then it’s time to exhale. Social media is here to stay.

However, what isn’t here to stay in 2011 is what we’ll call the Social Media Craze, which is the frenetic belief that social media is the end-all and be-all of marketing. Indeed, we’ve seen lots of businesses in the last few years throw tens of thousands of dollars at social media without a strategic plan in place, or an understanding of how social media fits into the bigger picture. The results? Typically between flat-out awful and “I don’t want to think about it.”

The problem here has never been about social media. The problem has been with the crazed belief that social media was all that mattered. In 2011, this problem will start to be solved by realistic, forward-looking business leaders who grasp that social media is a permanent part of a businesses Integrated Marketing picture, but not the ONLY part. Rather, it must co-exist and support (and be supported) alongside other marketing strategies and tactics — including offline ones.

2011 Marketing Trend #3: Website Optimization will evolve from Building Links into Establishing Authority

In the past, creating virtual lanes to drive consumers to a business website was largely about links: building them, exchanging them, leaving them – like breadcrumbs — behind in forums, on blogs, and other places where your target market travelled. And while link building will still remain a key part of an Integrated Marketing plan, in 2011 it will evolve into a stronger and fitter species called Authority Marketing.

Authority Marketing is about producing credible, original content that establishes your brand identity and fortifies your niche leadership. Why bother? Here’s why: because today’s consumers value authority – often more than price, selection and convenience. They’re the most sophisticated buying group in HISTORY, with more resources, data and power than ever before. They respect earned authority and scoff mightily (and often publicly) at businesses that assume authority without establishing it.

So whether it’s articles, blog posts, videos, reports, podcasts, or anything else in the marketing collateral stable, smart businesses in 2011 will create material that establishes their authority, and then leverages that credibility to influence consumers to go to a website or take some other desired action. Simply telling consumers that you exist isn’t enough. You have to tell them why you exist and then give them compelling reasons to agree that you’re the smartest choice for their needs. And the magic wand that makes that happen is Authority Marketing.

2011 Marketing Trend #4: Local Search and Review Sites will turn Reputation Marketing from “Nice to Have” into “Need to Have”

At first glance, this trend may seem blatantly redundant. After all, managing reputations has always been vital to business success, and pointing it out as a “trends” may seem as insightful as, say, suggesting that earning a profit or increasing high margin customers in 2011 is “something to strive towards.” However, if you circle back to a few seconds, you’ll see that this is about reputation marketing – not reputation management. And that makes a world of difference!

Reputation marketing is, as the name implies, a full-blown marketing function. It’s part of an Integrated Marketing Strategy that goes out – both to online and offline spaces – to influence the conversation, and position a business to be found by the right consumers for the right reasons. It’s about understanding and exploiting how the digital world and digital mindset has totally changed old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing, and created something much more dynamic and potentially profitable – and, yes, potentially costly if neglected or mishandled.

Remember: an online reputation flows from a website to all of the other online spaces that a business appears and competes. This includes everything from local search engines to online yellow pages to key review sites, and so on. In all of these spaces, a business must showcase and reinforce its brand, and establish its reputation wherever consumers seek out the products and services that it offers. And since the number of these online spaces increases every month (and the ones that don’t increase change their rules, policies and details), Reputation Marketing is not a one-time effort – it’s an ongoing commitment.

Put it all together, and it means that in 2011, Reputation Marketing will finally emerge as a MUST HAVE core competence, because the costs of not giving it the attention and resources that it needs can be enormous. It’s less about people saying “bad things,” and much more about missing opportunities for new, profitable business – and being left behind by increasingly sophisticated competition and customers.

2011 Marketing Trend #5: Brand Definition will Matter more than Ever Before

There’s two ways for businesses in 2011 to deal with brand: brand yourself…or be branded. You need to take control of your brand definition and clarify, convey and establish who you are and what you’re about – because this information matters more and more to consumers across a variety of new digital media properties. It also determines your overall positioning in an increasingly fragmented marketplace – one where the gaps between big and small blur, while the gaps between niche leader and niche follower widen.

On the flipside of this trend: Businesses can no longer stand idly by and let “market forces” do their branding work for them – because that kind of passive approach puts them at risk being reduced into a commodity (and losing all of the equity on their brand forever), or just as dreadfully, being branded for the wrong thing. Both of these consequences are common, and both can and do put otherwise healthy businesses in a marketing hole that takes years to climb out of – and some never make it out at all. They just…fade…away…

CastleCS: Your Integrated Marketing Partner for 2011

We started out by referring to your business story, and asking whether a year from now you’ll look back on 2011 and happily conclude that you exploited these marketing trends and reaped the rewards of your vision, or whether you missed the boat and are playing  catch-up – which, in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, may never happen.

Fortunately, you only need to do one thing to ensure that your 2011 business story is remarkable and profitable, instead of stressful and regretful: connect with the proven marketing experts at CastleCS.

As your trusted Integrated Marketing Partner and Advisor, the experienced CastleCS team helps you clearly understand how 2011’s marketing trends affect your business — and how they don’t.  We’ll design, implement, manage and measure customized and cost-effective integrated marketing solutions that get you ahead of the curve and the competition, and keep you smartly safely and strategically moving ahead.

The bottom line?

In 2011, you need your business story to be a happy one full of financial success and professional satisfaction. As your valued Integrated Marketing Partner and Advisor, you can expect Castle to write your customized marketing success story, chapter by chapter.